HOUSTON - The last of three men was sentenced here on Tuesday for attempting to smuggle 15 kilograms (33 pounds) of cocaine into the United States by ship.
This joint investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), U.S. Coast Guard and the Pasadena (Texas) Police Department.
Edwin Quintanilla, 41, an El Salvadoran national, was sentenced to 10 years and one month in prison for possessing a controlled substance, by U.S. District Court Judge David Hittner. He was also sentenced to five years probation after he completes his prison time.
The following other two men were sentenced in November 2010 for their roles in the attempted conspiracy: Ricardo Castillo, 46, a Colombian national, sentenced to 12 ½ years in prison and five years probation; and Eduardo Villar, 42, a Philippine national, sentenced to time served. All three were charged in May 2010 and are subject to deportation after they complete their prison sentences.
The ICE HSI investigation was initiated after a crewman approached the captain and told him a man named "Calvo" brought 15 kilograms of cocaine aboard the ship. Calvo enlisted the help of Villar to deliver the cocaine to someone name "Flaco" when the ship reached the Port of Houston.
On April 17, agents and officers boarded the vessel in Galveston Bay and discovered the cocaine secreted in two spandex body suits stowed inside a supply closet. Several phone calls resulted in Quintanilla meeting Villar at a WalMart in Pasadena, Texas. However, Quintanilla only had $7500. Villar immediately demanded $10,000 (the amount he had been promised) before he would turn over what Calvo had been given him.
Quintanilla was then observed making phone calls, meeting with Castillo and then returning to meet again with Villar. Quintanilla gave Villar a white sack containing $9800 and, in return, Villar gave Quintanilla a suitcase containing two backpacks which held the cocaine. At that time, both Quintanilla and Castillo were arrested. A cell phone recovered from Castillo was later confirmed to be the phone Villar contacted to arrange the delivery.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mel Pehachek and Jennie Basille, Southern District of Texas, prosecuted this case.